Ukraine has presented Canada with a new list of its military hardware needs while its army mounts a counter-offensive against Russia in the east, CBC News has learned.
The request was included in a letter Defense Minister Anita Anand received from her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov nearly three weeks ago, two defense sources with knowledge of the filing said.
It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin again signaled on Wednesday that his country is ready to hold referendums on annexation in areas it has seized in Ukraine and that it is preparing to call up 300,000 reservists with military experience, in part will mobilize.
The government of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is demanding more armored vehicles from Canada – in particular the latest version of the light armored vehicle known as the LAV VI.
Last June, the Liberal government pledged to supply Ukraine with 39 armored personnel carriers (ACSVs) – vehicles that have no weapons. The first of these vehicles were recently delivered by manufacturer GDLS Land Systems Canada of London, Ontario.
The Ukrainians say they need a combat vehicle “with a 25mm chain gun” which is the main armament of an LAV VI and the older (now decommissioned) LAV III used by the Canadian Army in Afghanistan.
Ukraine is also urging Canada to replenish its inventory of M-777 howitzers and supply more shells and winter clothing for its troops, the sources said.
Ukraine wants Canada still willing to know: sources
Canada recently allocated $500 million for arms sales to Ukraine. That money is now spent.
Other NATO allies, notably the US and Germany, continue to buy and ship weapons. Ukraine is awaiting a signal from Canada that it will proceed further, the sources said.
A spokesman for Anand would only say that dialogue between the two countries will continue.
“On a bilateral basis and through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, Minister Anand remains in close contact with Minister Reznikov on Ukraine’s most urgent security needs,” Daniel Minden said in a written statement.
“Canada will continue to stand by Ukraine and is exploring a variety of options to continue providing full-scale military assistance to Ukraine.”
Minden pointed out that Canada has provided $626 million in military aid to Ukraine since February 2022.
The call for more military equipment comes after the Kremlin announced that four regions of occupied Ukraine are asking for referendums on joining Russia.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Secretary of State Melanie Joly and Canada’s representative to the United Nations, Bob Rae, condemned Russia’s recent actions and called the referendum a sham.
“You can’t hold a referendum in a country under military occupation,” Rae said in New York when asked by a Russian journalist. “It’s a joke. The Russians should shake their heads.”
Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, said Moscow’s holding of referenda in the region it occupies is illegal under international law.
The referendum push is also a direct response to Ukraine’s recent successes on the battlefield, making Ukraine’s call for more weapons even more critical, he added.
“From the beginning, we have challenged and asked Canadians to understand that their sense of urgency needs to be heightened – that this … is a living war that works on the scale of days and hours, not weeks and months.” “said Michalchyshyn, adding that none of the armored vehicles promised by Canada had yet been delivered.
“I think Canada will lose credibility if we can’t deliver on those commitments, those promises in the near future.”
Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, said it was in Canada’s national interest to give Ukraine what it needs.
“While Canada’s support has been modest, compared to a number of other allies, Canada has actually been pretty good at delivering on promises it’s made quickly,” he said.
Arms industry unprepared for a major war
The problem, he said, is that the Allies and the defense industry as a whole are unprepared for a full-scale war.
“Since the end of the Cold War, not only have the allies significantly restructured their armed forces, they also no longer have the stocks they used to have,” said Leuprecht.
“And so most of what you gave away today effectively comes from your current stash. So this is gear you will actually run out of.”
Most of the items Canada has already donated – including four 155mm howitzers and anti-tank weapons – have been taken directly from Canadian Army inventories. At the end of the NATO summit in June, Trudeau publicly committed to replacing this equipment.
However, a recent report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies questioned how long allies — including the United States — can continue to dip into their own stockpiles without a sharp surge in arms production.
The Pentagon has been in talks with the defense industry about increasing production.
“However, the general industry position is that DOD should make commitments to multi-year acquisitions to justify industry investments in surge protection capacity,” said the report, released Friday and authored by Mark F. Cancian, a senior adviser to the think tank. Panzer’s international security program.
A previous study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies – one written before the start of major hostilities in Ukraine – found that the defense system was “fragile” and warned it would take many years to “stock up.” in an emergency” for most items.
“The problem is that the defense industry base is designed for peacetime production rates,” the report, written in January, said.
“Surge skills were seen as a waste of buying factory capacity that shouldn’t be used. The conversion of civilian industry to war production is theoretically possible, but a long process. In World War II, this transition took two to three years in a society and economy that was fully mobilized.”
The report warns that certain products are in short supply among Ukraine’s allies and cannot be easily manufactured quickly: missile-launched artillery (the MLRS and HIMARS systems), M-777 155mm howitzers and Javelin anti-tank systems.
“The United States has reportedly surrendered about a third of its inventory to Ukraine, and reports have surfaced that the military has expressed concerns about having enough for other conflicts,” reads the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ latest report .
“Surprisingly, the August 19 Weapons Pack contains an additional 1,000 Javelins despite the low inventory. The current production rate is around 1,000 per year. Although DOD is working to increase these, it will take many years to fully replenish inventory.”
Replacing stocks of 155mm M-777 howitzers could be particularly difficult given that production of these artillery pieces ended years ago.